Buddha, The Sensible Rationalist!

Written by January 26, 2011 3:58 pm 32 comments

This is the 7th and concluding part of Dr. Kamath’s series on Heretics, Rebels, Reformers and Revolutionaries. Links to all articles in this series can be found here. Dr. Kamath’s previous series on The Truth About The Bhagavad Gita can be found here.

The seventh and the last Samurai in our series, who revolted against Brahmanism, was Siddhartha Gautama, a prince of the Sakhya clan of Kapilavastu, a small kingdom at the foothills of the Himalayas. He is arguably the greatest Indian ever, and one of the greatest thinkers in the history of the world. Most of what we know of him comes to us from various Buddhist literature, memorized, and orally transmitted from generation to generation, and finally written down nearly four hundred years after his death in 483 B. C. Even though he was certainly a historical figure, most supernatural events, and irrational beliefs attributed to him must certainly be due to embellishment by overenthusiastic later adherents of Buddhism. Most of the initial converts were Brahmins, who brought with them their Brahmanic baggage. I am certain that the Buddha, a rationalist to boot, would have a hearty laugh at most mindless rituals practiced by various Buddhist sects around the world. There is no dearth of hypocrites, impostors and opportunists in this world.

The Buddha Was Way Ahead Of His Time

Siddhartha Gautama was perhaps over three thousand years ahead of his time. He was the product of the post-Vedic ‘Age of Disillusionment”. During the period of 1000-200 B. C. intellectuals of India were uniformly disgusted by the twin scourges of decadent Brahmanism: Rampant animal sacrifices sponsored by kings and officiated by Brahmins; and inequities associated with Varna Dharma -the class system based on the theory of unequal distribution of the Gunas of Prakriti and Karma (comeuppance) from one’s previous lives. Upanishadism, Jainism, and a host of other heterodox sects across the board, which preceded Buddhism, considered the world as a miserable place to live, thanks to Brahmanism. They were all busy trying to discover a sensible method for the FINAL EXIT from it. All these were like a bunch of cooks who were frantically looking for the nearest exit from a kitchen on fire.

Upanishadism And Buddhism

There is no evidence that the Buddha studied the anti-Brahmanic Upanishadic doctrines of Brahman/Atman and Yoga before arriving at his Four Noble Truths and Eight-fold Noble Path. The Buddha did not believe in Brahman/Atman concept. However, meditation proposed by him was nothing but secular form of Yoga, which later on found its way into the Upanishadic Gita as Buddhiyoga (2:48-53). Even though the Upanishadic doctrines were not available to the general public during this time (6th century B. C.) due to them being hidden by Brahmins as Shruthis, it is possible that intellectuals of north India had some idea as to what their theories were for the problem of Dukkha (sorrow) here on earth and Samsara (unending cycle of birth and death) hereafter.

We should remember here that the Upanishads considered decadent Brahmanism as the cause of three miseries: Shokam (grief), Dwandwam (restlessness and stress) and Karmaphalam (leading to Samsara). Their goal was to dismantle the very foundation of Brahmanism, namely the Gunas of Prakriti and the Law of Karma; and to knock down its four pillars: The Vedas, Varna Dharma, Yajnas and supremacy of Brahmins. These were also the very goals of the Buddha, and he succeeded in doing so for a thousand years, thanks to Ashoka the Great (ruled 272-232 B. C.) who made Buddhism a World Religion. It will be of interest to us here that when Upanishadists took over Arjuna Vishada (the Original Gita), around 200 B. C. they incorporated many of Buddha’s teachings into it.

Buddha Decries Animal Sacrifices

In accordance with his doctrine of infinite compassion for he suffering of all living creatures, the Buddha revolted against animal sacrifices, which had corrupted Yajnas due to greed of Brahmins:

Suttanipata: 2:7:23-26: But largesse (of the king) fired their (Brahmins’) passions more to get; their craving grew. Once more they sought Okkāka; with these verses newly framed: “As earth and water, gold and silver, so are cows a primal requisite of man. Great store, great wealth is thine; make (cow) sacrifice!

Then the king, the lord of chariots, persuaded by these Brāhmins, killed hundreds of thousands of cows in sacrifice. Cows sweet as lamb, filling pails with milk, never hurting anyone with foot or horn -the king had them seized by the horns and slaughtered by the sword.”

The Buddha expresses his horror:

Suttanipata: 2:7:27-30: Then the gods, the Pitrus (ancestral spirits), Indra, the Asuras, the Rakshasas cried out as the weapon fell on the cows, “Lo! This is injustice!” Of old there were only three diseases -desire, want of food, and decay. Owing to the killing of the cattle, there sprang ninety-eight diseases. This old sin of injury to living beings has come down (to this day). Innocent cows are killed. Priests have fallen off their virtues.

“This is how,” The Buddha concluded, “Kshatriyas and self-styled Brāhmins and others protected by rank destroyed the repute of their caste and fell prey to desires.”

The Buddha Tells Kshatriyas Not To Waste Money On Yajnas

Kutadanta Sutta describes a parable told by the Buddha to a Brahmin who wanted to perform a big sacrifice. In this parable, a king by the name of Mahavijita decides to perform a great sacrifice, “that would be to my benefit and happiness for a long time.” Recognizing the fact that the additional taxation required for this ostentatious Yajna would ruin people and the country, his wise minister, a capitalist to boot, tells the king instead to invest that money to, “get rid of the thieves and robbers plaguing the country; distribute grain and fodder to peasants; give capital to businessmen; and pay government servants proper wages.” This quintessential minister concludes, “Then those people, being intent on their own occupations, will not harm the kingdom; your majesty’s revenues will be great; the land will be tranquil, and not beset by thieves; and the people, with joy in their hearts, playing with their children, will dwell in open houses.” Thus enlightened, the king followed his minister’s advice and consequently his kingdom prospered. This advice is valid for Indian government to this very day.pn-golden-buddha-painting-ijbg

Ashoka the Great followed this example and acted selflessly for the welfare of all people in his kingdom. Whereas Brahmins used his negative image (of a fallen and renegade Kshatriya who abandoned Brahmanism and embraced Buddhism) to describe a pathetic Arjuna contemplating abandoning his Dharma in Arjuna Vishada, (the Original Gita, 1:28-47), Upanishadists used his positive image of an enlightened and energetic king who worked incessantly for the welfare of all people as their model of Karmayogi (3:20).

The Buddha Opposes Varna Dharma

In defiance of Brahmanism, which considered Brahmins as gift of Brahman (BG: 17:23), the Buddha advocated equality of all people. Like Upanishadists before him, he said that a man’s character, and not his class of birth, should determine his status in life. Assallayana Sutta describes an incident in which Brahmins prompt a brilliant and erudite young Brahmin to debate the Buddha regarding Varna Dharma. The boy tells the Buddha to disprove the fact that Brahmins were superior to all other classes and true heirs to Brahman. The Buddha engages this boy in a thought-provoking debate, and in a stepwise manner debunks his claim and makes the boy come to the conclusion that, in the final analysis, it is one’s moral caliber and not class of birth that determines one’s status in life.

The Middle Path

Those days thousands upon thousands of wandering sophists, known as Parivrajaka, roamed the country. May of them indulged in self-torture as the path to their salvation from sorrow and Samsara. Before he came up with his own solutions for the Dukkha (sorrow, misery) in the world, the Buddha tried, and then discarded severe self-denial and self-torture as the path of enlightenment. He disliked decadent Brahmanism on the one hand and rigorous self-torture on the other. So he developed the doctrine of the Middle Path -moderation in everything. He declared that after 49 days of incessant contemplation under a tree at Bodhgaya, present day Bihar, he became enlightened, and thus became the Buddha -the Enlightened One. What he discovered was one hundred percent rational. All other nonsense we hear about Buddhism was grafted on to this teaching by various vested interests, which infiltrated his organization like a bunch of leeches in the course of several centuries. Any organization, however great its original goals might be, will be corrupted sooner or later by less noble-minded people.

The Core Message Of The Buddha

After his enlightenment the Buddha declared:

Samyutta Nikaya: Rohitasutta: In this very one-fathom-long body along with its perceptions and thoughts, do I proclaim the world, the origin of the world, the cessation of the world, and the path leading to the cessation of the world.

When the Buddha said “world” he was referring to the “miserable world” he lived in.

What he said were simple Truths: 1. Dukkha -sorrow pervades this world. 2. The cause of Dukkha is desire and attachment to sense objects (people, money, power, title, heaven, etc.) 3. The goal in life should be cessation of Dukkha. 4. This can be achieved by the Eightfold Path, which has to do with all the functions of the mind:

1. Right Understanding. 2. Right Thoughts. 3. Right Speech. 4. Right Action. 5. Right Livelihood. 6. Right Effort. 7. Right Mindfulness, and 8. Right Concentration.

It does not take a psychiatrist or for that matter a rocket scientist to recognize the truths in these statements. Indeed, accepting the reality of the above statements and diligently following the Middle Path would certainly alleviate much stress and consequent Dukkha in this world. The Buddha did not ask anyone to give up his family and become a Bhikku, the begging monk. The order of monks, Sangha, was developed to spread the rational message of the Buddha to the irrational people living in the Dukkha-stricken Brahmanic world.

Ashoka, The First Great Patron

The earliest authenticated teachings of the Buddha could be found in the Rock Edicts of Ashoka the Great, which were carved around 250 B. C. By then, Buddhism had superseded Brahmanism and firmly established itself as the Dharma of north India. Ashoka embraced Buddhism completely and became its greatest champion.

Minor Rock Edict: Piyadasi, King of Magadha, saluting the Sangha and wishing them good health and happiness, speaks thus: You know, reverend sirs, how great my faith in the Buddha, the Dhamma and Sangha is. Whatever, revered sirs, has been spoken by Lord Buddha, all that is well-spoken. I consider it proper, reverend sirs, to advice on how good should last long.

Note in the above Edict the three fundamental utterances of Buddhists: Buddham Sharanam Gacchami, Dharmam Sharanam Gacchami, Sangam Sharanam Gacchami (I surrender to the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha).

Ashoka’s edicts reflect the core message of the Buddha:

Girnar version (257 B. C.): I have also ordered my sons and sons of other queens to distribute gifts so that noble deeds of Dhamma and the practice of Dhamma may be promoted. And noble deeds of Dhamma and practice of Dhamma consist of having kindness, generosity, truthfulness, purity, gentleness and good increase (prosperity) among people.

This Dharma did not need gods, rituals, Yajnas, and animal sacrifices. All this Dharma asked was for people to behave in an ethical and virtuous ways. The bottom line was: You don’t need a god to be good.

Practicality Of The Middle Path

In contrast to Jainism’s extreme opposition to violence to animals, the Buddha took a moderate stand on this issue. In keeping with the practicality of the Middle Path, while the Buddha condemned sacrificing animals in Yajna, he did not forbid Bhikkus from eating meat as long as the animal was not killed specifically to feed the Bhikkus. When an ardent follower gently confronted the Buddha about his duplicity in this matter, he replied:

Majjhima Nikāya 55 [I 368-371]: The Buddha replied: “Jivaka, those who speak thus, do not truthfully speak about what has been said or done by me, but misrepresent me with what is untrue and quite contrary to the actual facts…

Jivaka, I say there are three occasions in which meat should not be eaten: when it is seen, heard or suspected that the living being has been killed for sake of a Bhikku. I say: Meat should not be eaten on these three occasions. I say that there are three occasions in which meat may be eaten: when it is not seen, not heard, and not suspected, that the living being has been killed for the sake of the Bhikku, I say: Meat may be eaten on these three occasions.

Legend has it that the Buddha died at age eighty after choking on a piece of pork meat. Perhaps this legend was developed by pork-eating monks to justify eating pork till their last breath.

Karma, Reincarnation And Nirvana

The most irrational parts of Buddhism are these three concepts, which I doubt very much whether the Buddha really believed in them. Whereas Karma and Samsara were pure Brahmanic concepts, Nirvana was the Upanishadic concept. Buddha did not believe in Brahman, the all-pervading Universal Spirit, nor Atman, Its essence in the body of man. Buddhism considered Nirvana as the extinction of “the fire of lust, hatred, delusion, birth, old age, death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief and despair, which sets the whole miserable world on the fire of Dukkha.” This was equivalent to the Upanishadic steady state of mind known as Sthithaprajnya. Buddhism believed that the Buddha had many incarnations as Bodhisattva (a wise person) before he was finally born as the Buddha. This, I believe, is simply the production of Brahmins who infiltrated Buddhism in droves and switched into yellow robes after discarding their saffron rags.

buddha

Gandhara Buddha (4-5th c), from what is now Pakistan

Buddhism In Modern India

There are many causes of demise of Buddhism in India: The rise of Brahmanism due to the sleight of hand of Shankaracharya; patronage of Brahmanism by various petty-minded kings; the rise of Islamic kingdoms; corruption of Buddhism to the extent that it was not much different from decadent Brahmanism, so on and so forth. With Buddhism’s decline, mindless and ritual-obsessed Brahmanism gained ascendance. Now Brahmins took charge of the newly evolving Hinduism and reinstated their rituals in disguise. With superbly refined brainwashing techniques, which even pope and Cardinals of Catholicism might envy, Brahmins took control of the minds of naïve masses, and created mind-boggling array of gods, and eye-popping rituals, festivals and other shenanigans. By deliberately misinterpreting the Upanishadic and Bhagavata revolutionary shlokas in the Bhagavad Gita, they reinstated Varna Dharma, promoted Jati Dharma and Untouchability. Untold injustice was done to millions of people whom they condemned to life of servitude, and degradation worse than slavery.

Ambedkar And Revival Of Buddhism In Modern India

Dr. B. R. Ambedkar, the architect of Indian Constitution, was a lawyer, scholar, author, historian, anthropologist, and to Brahmanism an Untouchable. It took the Brahmin dominated Indian government 34 years after his death in 1956 to honor this great man with Bharata Ratna, the highest civilian award of India. In the course of his research, he found out that in the ancient times Brahmins had declared his clan as Untouchables because they were Buddhists, and had forced them to live outside the village limits as Mahars. In ancient India, as in modern India, this practice was a matter of course. Ambedkar embraced Buddhism and converted a large number of Untouchable to that faith. He wrote a book on Buddhism titled The Buddha and His Dharma. There has been no great leader such has Ambedkar since his death to guide the so-called Untouchables, currently known as Dalits, to assert themselves as equal citizens in a democracy. A large number of them have become obsessed with raising their social status by climbing the hierarchical ladder set up for them by clever Brahmanic loyalists: Performing ever more grandiose Yajnas and other mindless rituals in evermore ostentatious temples dedicated to countless gods and goddesses dotting the length and breadth of India.

Conclusion

In the course of their revolutions in the Bhagavad Gita to overthrow Brahmanism, Upanishadists and Bhagavatas incorporated the fundamental principles of Jainism, Buddhism, and other assorted heterodox Dharmas. Bhagavatas downgraded all aspects of Brahmanism (11:48, 53); absorbed all Brahmanic icons into Lord Krishna (11:21-22); and even got rid of Brahman of the Upanishads (11:18), and appointed Lord Krishna in his place as the Supreme Lord full of wonderful attributes (11:3). They declared that Lord Krishna was Atman within the heart of man (15:15). They created a broad-based Dharma standing on the doctrine of Lord Krishna as the very embodiment of Dharma (14:27). They declared that worshiping Lord Krishna by Bhaktiyoga would enable one to transcend the doctrine of the Gunas (7:14) and Karma (9:28), and eliminate the three evils caused by them. Having done all this they made Lord Krishna thunder His Ultimate Shloka in the Bhagavad Gita:

18:66: Abandon all Dharma and surrender unto Me alone. I shall deliver you from all sins; do not grieve.

In this Ultimate Shloka of the Bhagavad Gita, Bhagavatas attempted to unify all the disparate heterodox Dharmas of India, which had arisen in revolt against decadent Brahmanism, under one umbrella. They exhorted everyone to abandon all other Dharmas such as Brahmanism and all its sub-Dharmas such as Varna Dharma and Jati Dharma; Upanishadic Dharma, Buddha Dharma, Jaina Dharma, Ajivika Dharma, etc. Indeed, this was a desperate attempt by the Bhagavatas to rescue Indian society from the death-grip of Brahmanism.

Unfortunately, Bhagavatas, like all other opponents of Brahmanism vastly underestimated the weed-like sustaining power of Brahmanism. Brahmins infiltrated Bhagavatism, confiscated the Bhagavad Gita, hyper-edited the text, rewrote shlokas, scrambled chapters and destroyed its revolutionary spirit. They appointed Vishnu, a minor Vedic deity who fought along side Indra against the hated Dasyus as the Supreme Lord, and reduced Krishna as his 8th Avatara. Now Krishna stood side by side with various animals -Fish, a Tortoise, a Pig, a Half Lion/Half-Man, a Midget, a Kshatriya-hating Brahmin, and a meek-mannered Prince. They declared the Buddha as the ninth Avatara of Vishnu born to mislead heretics to hell.

Now, go and read the voluminous nonsensical interpretations of the above shloka in commentaries written by Brahmanic Acharyas such as Shankaracharya, Madhvacharya, Ramanujacharya, Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, Paramahamsa Yogananda, or any other so-called Acharya.

This concludes the series on Heretics, Rebels, Reformers and Revolutionaries of ancient India. Thank you!

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This post was written by:

- who has written 38 posts on Nirmukta.

Dr. Prabhakar Kamath, is a psychiatrist currently practicing in the U.S. He is the author of Servants, Not Masters: A Guide for Consumer Activists in India (1987) and Is Your Balloon About To Pop?: Owner’s Manual for the Stressed Mind. Links to all articles in Dr. Kamath's earlier series on Heretics, Rebels, Reformers and Revolutionaries can be found here. Dr. Kamath' series on The Truth About The Bhagavad Gita can be found here.

32 Comments

  • Saurabh Jani

    This article appears to be religious propaganda for Buddhism. The claim of Buddhism being rational sounds hollow when one considers the concepts of terrible Buddhist hell and Buddhist reincarnations, simple or esoteric. Wikipedia lists Buddhist hell as described by Bodhisatva himself. Also, almost any religion has some segments of rationalism. Buddhist propagandist Dalai Lama is trying hard to exploit science to spread Buddhism and failing miserably so far. Billions of people over thousands of years have done Buddhist meditation and have not been able to quantify it’s benefits or significance in everyday terms. Even current research has proven meditation/yoga etc; to have just basic health benefits. So, the peddlers of Buddhism end up pushing spiritual benefits, an enlightened life etc, whatever that means. Incidentally, I have nothing to do with ANY Religion/god etc.

  • Adi Brahman

    This is an excellent article by Shri Kamath. Buddhism is a million times better than the religion of Brahminism. It is a shame that India moved away from the age of enlightenment under Buddhism to the age of darkness under Brahminism. A Monkey does not know the worth of a pearl necklace. But today’s enlightened Indians are moving back toward Buddhism, and so are people of other races.

  • Rationalist

    Dear Writer,
    I read your article with so much interest and consideration. I am an atheist now, before I was a Hindu. As I came through science and philosophy in the American colleges, I declared myself an atheist. However, I found some mistakes in your artice. Firstly,the Buddha was not born in India. He was born in Kapilvastu, which is in Nepal. Refering yourself as a rationalist and still not knowing such a historical fact leave you as a hypocrite. Secondly, the Eastern religions, especially Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism, and Jainism are very tolerant that western religions. Did not you study in history that the Jews, for not believing in a Christian god, were evacuated from many countries. Most of them faced anti-Semitism until the late 1950s, while the Indian Jews never had any experience with it. The problem in Hinduism is caste-system, but do you know that Valmiki, the writer of “Ramayana” was not a Brahmin. He was born in a Shudra caste, still Ramayana’s importance parallels the Gita. Also, Hinduism is very tolerant of minorities. Shikhandi, who today could probably fit as a homosexual, fought along with Arjuna to kill Bheesma Peetamaha.

    Totally eliminating Hinduism does not lead anywhere. Buddhism developed from the base of Hinduism. Nepal is a Hindu majority country, still Buddha is revered m100 times more than the Hindu gods. They have co-existed. Also, India is an agricultural country. Not everybody has access to philosophy like you and me. For some, religion is a guide and a heritage. If you totally eliminate Hinduism, then the Indians will be either Christians or Muslims. Where will this lead? Nowhere.

    As a rationalist and an atheist, I am calling on you to spread education, stop caste-system, stop Christian missionaries, stop Islamic theorocracy, and promote philosophical atheism. This is the only way.

    “We have a world to win, not a heaven to think of.”-By myself. You can use my quotation without my permission.

    • Satish Chandra

      Refering yourself as a rationalist and still not knowing such a historical fact leave you as a hypocrite.

      The author said “…was Siddhartha Gautama, a prince of the Sakhya clan of Kapilavastu, a small kingdom at the foothills of the Himalayas..”. So it looks like you read haven’t read the article properly.

      Secondly, the Eastern religions, especially Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism, and Jainism are very tolerant that western religions

      Is that the benchmark for Hinduism? So using your logic, unless Hinduism starts killing people for not believing in it, nobody can criticize it?

      The problem in Hinduism is caste-system, but do you know that Valmiki, the writer of “Ramayana” was not a Brahmin.

      Science tells us that all humans are equal, more or less. Given that, in most occupations you’d expect a proportional mix of people. So what percentage of literary writers were Shudras? People like you love latching onto rare examples and then falsely claim that caste system wasn’t there or wasn’t all bad. Same goes for transgender people. What percentage of all Hindu kings, writers, poets, administrators etc… was transgender?

      If you totally eliminate Hinduism, then the Indians will be either Christians or Muslims. Where will this lead? Nowhere

      That’s just your imagination speaking. Nobody here is calling for elimination of Hinduism. What is being called for is a reduction in irrational beliefs, especially in public policy and discourse.

      • Rationalist

        Mr. Satish Chandra,

        Thank you for the critic. This is the very base of a philosphical advancement. You misunderstood some of my points. I have never met you, but I can tell you this is that I am an atheist 1000 times more than the type of atheist you are. Let me answer your first critic- the birthplace of Buddha. Doesn’t the writer says, “He (Buddha) is arguably the greatest Indian ever, and one of the greatest thinkers in the history of the world?
        Second critic-I did not say that the rationalists should stop criticizing Hinduism. What I said was very different. Hinduism, including other Eastern religions, have been developed in India. They are an integral part of India, since they contributed to both the philosophical and mathematical development of India. Unlike the Christian popes and Muslim imams, there is not such a powerful body for the Hindus. Well, there are many now, but they are mainly because of the rise of the Christian population in India and response to the Muslim invasion. Did Hindus or the Buddhists ever have such a powerful religious body? No, they did not. Still, the Roman Catholics have a pope, who I think is equally dangereous as a Hindu upper caste priest. As the missionaries entered India, the Hindu Renaissnace started, leading to the majestic works of Swami Vivekananda and Rabindra Nath Tagore to as bad as the theocratic deeds of the RSS. If the missionaries had never gone to India, I can tell you this that organizations like RSS would never have established. The problem with Indian rationalists, including you, is that is you do not understand the core of the problem. On your third critic-my basic premise is that god is a useless creation of a human mind. Being said that, I believe Valmiki created Ram and Vyasa created Krishna. This applies to all existing religions, with some exceptions of Buddhism and Jainism. Most Hindus, though I do not have a statistical proof, believe this. But they consider themselves Hindus only because they do not wish to be a Christian and are not Muslims. In India you have too many religions. If you are not one, you are another. By this I mean, if you are not a Hindu or a Buddhist, you have converted to Christianity. Such arguments are really wrong, but people do not have other options. Even though India had a base of philosphy and science, most people do not have access to them. As an atheist, I tend to spend most of my time in libraries. But not all Indians can do that. You and I can, but not every Indian can. I have never been to India, but I presume that you have more new churches built than libraries. By the end of 2050, India may be a satellite state of the Vatican.
        I do not believe in secularism, as I do not think that religion should have a say in government. I am an anti-secularist. My atheism has nothing to do with secularism since I believe not any religions should be practiced. India is a secular country- the Muslims can teach their children in Madrassa and you have too many Christian schools? This is the problem of your secularism. In my opinion, religion is an outdated topic and its abolition is imperative.

        “It would be an insult to India if Christianity strongly develops its base. Do not forget that the Africans and the native Americans had their own religions. Either eliminate all, or do not let your secularism open a door for foreign religions to outpass your domestic and homegrown religions”. By me-you can use without my permission.

        • Geetha T.G.

          Rationalist, I know your comment is aimed at Satish but I can’t resist responding to it.
          What does ’1000 times more than the type of atheist you are’ mean?
          / By this I mean, if you are not a Hindu or a Buddhist, you have converted to Christianity.Such arguments are really wrong, but people do not have other options /
          That is a very narrow statement. You have the option to call yourself an Atheist or declare that you do not practise any religion.
          / As an atheist, I tend to spend most of my time in libraries. But not all Indians can do that./
          I don’t know which country you belong to but I am willing to bet not all of your country’s citizens could do that either.
          /I have never been to India, but I presume that you have more new churches built than libraries. By the end of 2050, India may be a satellite state of the Vatican./
          I appreciate your concern but I don’t think there is cause for alarm as such.
          /I do not believe in secularism, as I do not think that religion should have a say in government. I am an anti-secularist.
          But isn’t that what secularism is – religious consideration should be excluded from public affairs?
          Religion is the cause of many problems in India and there may be some problems with our brand of secularism but then Religion cannot be outright banned or abolished. It would only be counter-productive. What we can do is to create awareness about the ills of all religions and don’t consider Hinduism as having any special status.
          And finally Hindusim is not an integral part of India. This article
          http://nirmukta.com/2009/11/28/is-hindu-atheism-valid-a-rationalist-critique-of-the-hindu-identitys-usurpation-of-indian-culture/
          on the usurpation of a national identity by the hindu label might help.

          • rationalist

            Geeta jee, I an an anti-secularist for two reasons. First, it never works. Second, my basic premise is that religions and the myths of gods have to be vanished. If you vanish all of them, why do u need a secular government? As long as you have a secular government, religious fundamentalism survives. Do you create a mathematical or a physical government?

        • Satish Chandra

          By your logic someone born in what is today’s Pakistan, but lives in India should be called a Pakistani. But even if it weren’t, your argument isn’t that relevant to the main points raised by the author. You picked on it just to badmouth the author because his views don’t go well with your views.

          And your second point is a perfect illustration of the Hindu Persecution Complex and the laments that Hindu atheists are fond of having.

          Your third point completely avoids the point I raised. Your point was that Hinduism is tolerant to the extent of allowing Shudras to write epics and allowing marginalized people to fight along with others. I said that such examples are the exception rather than the norm. True tolerance would logically imply that such examples are the norm rather than the exception.

    • Excellent article and excellent comment

  • Rationalist! Name not fits! In the series of Sankaracharya, alwar, nayanmar, Vivekananda, tagore…. Now the hindu- rationalist and hindu-atheist holding their flag to protect the hinduism. The reason is sanatana offered great luxury, assets, employment, security etc… to the people who are in the top of the fold. Globalization and awareness to ignorant masses particularly reach of education is worry some parameter for sanathanatharma in india!, so it is quit natural those people change the card and change the act accordingly. But the ugly is, the mix of the evil in the name of rationalism and atheism.
    By
    - Worst affected by sanathanatharma!

  • The writer of this article is driven by the need to establish his ideology through a person representing the exact opposite of what he has to say, and in this case, Buddha, which is what exactly happens when a religios person tries to “prove” god scientifically. So, i dont think a rationalist of this kind and a religious fool are on different boats. So why do i say buddha was not a rationalist?

    1. All his life he was trying to go beyond the mind and when all his efforts became futile, when there came an utter sense of no-thought, he became enlightened. And he did all this by repudiating all the worldly pleasures, pain, emotions, etc.. Surely, such a person is not a rationalist.

    2. It is said that Mahakashyapa became the closest disciple of Buddha. Yet, they conversed in scilences. They never uttered a word to each other, it is said. Now, the idea of someone having a student with whom he has never conversed is no way rational.

    4. And the writer hugely twists the meaning of Middle Path to his convinience. Middle path is not just helping “seekers” get off their self-torture. It is all about accepting things as they come, without thought, questioning, contemplation, but with utter awareness of what one does. Now this is not something rational to not question, or contemplate upon something.

    5. And most of all, Buddha’s Dhammapadha consists of sutras to escape the cycle of life and death. Buddha believed in eternal existence of the soul, which is also not rational

    The writer has simple played with words to turn Buddha into a Richard Dawkins of the yore

  • Sir,

    Reincarnation is a deep concept it is the direct consequence of causality. Those who have not done enough study think that one person is born again as another person.

    That is not the idea. The idea is there is continuity and conservation of matter and energy.

    • Saurabh Jani

      In simple terms, even after thousands of years, Reincarnation Hypothesis remains just an unproven concept and at worst, it sounds like “Bait And Switch” marketing of whatever religion/philosophy. Conservation of matter and energy was not even a gleam in the eyes of the Enlightened One as this is a post Newtonian concept. This is not surprising as religions constantly keep trying to rationalize their Bronze Age claims using science of the material universe. For many believers, it will be very disturbing indeed to learn that reincarnation is not what the word promises, as they spend their whole life in organizing their time around religious activities.

  • Very fine article Mr. Kamath. I recommend you also “Buddhism without beliefs” a nice book wherein the author beautifully argues that Buddha was after all a practical and a rational man and correctly points out the true religion of the Buddha which was nothing but pure rationality and in that seeking happiness. This did not require God, rituals, temple, karma, samsara, rebirth.

    And yes Buddhism is having a rebirth especially in the urban elite of India. Many many thousands are seeking Buddhism across the cities of India.

  • Dr. Kamath,

    “Karma, Reincarnation And Nirvana: The most irrational parts of Buddhism are these three concepts,
    which I doubt very much whether the Buddha really believed in them.
    Buddhism considered Nirvana as the extinction of ‘the fire of lust, hatred, delusion, birth, old age, death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief and despair, which sets the whole miserable world on the fire of Dukkha.’”

    If we reject Nirvana as defined here as irrational,
    does it not amount to rejecting the fourth noble truth?

    The 3rd and 4th noble truths talk about Nirvana
    (cessation of Dukkha and its causes) and the way leading to them.
    How can we accept them, if we don’t accept the idea of Nirvana as defined here?

    • It is beyond me why people think that they can do historical research without a sound “scientific” methodology.

      The author claims that the historical Buddha probably didn’t believe karma, reincarnation, and nirvana. Fine. Now how are you going to go about proving that claim? For example, in the Pali Canon, are the verses that deal with these subjects of a demonstrably later date than the other verses? Can you prove that these verses are of a later dater using your knowledge of linguistics and Prakrit?

      Essentially, the author has a mental image of what he emotionally feels the Buddha was like. And because his “ideal Buddha” is a rationalist, he sweeps the metaphysics under te rug.

      The truth is, unless you can prove otherwise, the historical Buddha most likely did believe in these metaphysical concepts. They are the foundation of everything he preached– including the theory of “anatta.”

  • Saurav Bhasin

    Dear Mr. Kamath,

    I beg to differ with you on a few accounts:-

    1.”The most irrational parts of Buddhism are these three concepts – Karma, Reincarnation And Nirvana, which I doubt very much whether the Buddha really believed in them. Whereas Karma and Samsara were pure Brahmanic concepts, Nirvana was the Upanishadic concept.”

    On point No1:
    Karma is not a Brahmanic concept. The concept of Karma has existed in India since a long time even before the Buddha’s birth. The Buddha merely accepted that Karma is true. The people of the Jain religion also believe in Karma. Further Karma is the only rational explanation for the grief, suffering and destitution we see in the world.Why are some people born physically handicapped, born ignorant, born stupid. Further why do some people lead extremely difficult lives with no access to education to enlighten themselves?. What other rational explanation can you offer – Gods will/Predestination/No reason as Materialists believe?.

    Reincarnation – Reincarnation is a Upanishadic concept which entails belief in a Soul. Buddhists dont believe in Soul rather they believe in Anatta – (No soul). What Buddhists believe in is called as Rebirth. Rebirth can be considered rational considering what we think – we do and what we do – we become.
    Rebirth can be proven at deep stages of Meditation. The Buddha himself recalled his hundreds of millions of previous births in different realms while attaining Nirvana. Of course reaching such deep stages of Meditation is never easy. But as long as one has not tried it with dedicated will one should not conclude it as saying that it does not exist.

    On Point 3:
    Nirvana – Again Nirvana is not a Upanishadic concept. Upanishad believe in unity of soul with Brahman which was not what is considered as Right view in Buddhism. Buddha said no Soul existed and if no soul existed then Nirvana is definitely not an upanishadic concept.

    When asked what was Nirvana …..He simply said it is a stage of Complete peace…and that peace is eternal. Isnt it what everyone desires in Life?.

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